The day started early, I awoke at six this morning to get ready to go the cross race in Overijse. I swiftly cooked up some eggs and got dressed. I also had a chance to talk to my mom on the webcam and she wished me luck. As I go ready I checked the temperature and saw -3C (like -15F), So I put on every bit of cycling clothes I had.
The plan was I would meet up with Romain and his father half way in between our two houses, for me that’s 45minutes south towards Waterloo. I took my bike and went down stairs, but as I set the bike down I noticed that the rear tire was flat. A little problem, but I left a little extra time so if something like this would happen I would okay. I quickly changed tubes and was off. It was a dark cold ride, but it was worth it to do the race.
We arrived at the race with time on our side, so we sat in the warm car for a good hour. Then Romain and I went to register and find a toilet, we accomplished both tasks, but returned cold. It was even colder in Overijse because its in a small valley. Romain had the luxury of warming up on a trainer while I went out and got colder. Not really, but I had two pairs of gloves and my hands were still freezing. After a short ride I returned and we both dressed down for the race. I saw some crazy things the riders were doing to help stay warm. Matt, Romain’s friend put Vaseline all over him face as a protective barrier(????), and I along with Romain put warming oil on our hands to try and keep them warm.
Everyone waited frigidly to be called to the line, and at the last minute the Czech national junior team rolled up with five or six riders. One by one the riders were called to the line, I think it was based on UCI standing because the Czech rider who has been getting top three in all the world cups and is the European cross champion was called up first. Some more Czech riders got called up fallowed by the Belgium champion and some other riders on their national team. Romain and Matt were both called up at the end with me fallowing. There was only about 35-40 riders that started, but Romain, Matt, and I were in the very back.
The raced started off fast, and about 200 meters into it there is a steep some what long paved climb. We hit that and it was already strung out, I moved up a few places, but was still in the back. As we turned onto the upper grass section the leaders already had a gap. There was a steep grass decent with a sharp “U” turn at the bottom before you rode back up the hill, that was very slippery.
For the next few lap I started to pick off people one by one, I gained a lot of time on the hills and fast sections, but fell back on the descents at technical sections. I passed Matt on the third lap which gave me a boost and kept my spirits high. I slowly was catching Romain and on the fifth of six laps passed him, and said “come on Romain up, up!!”, but I spoke to soon. I got a ten second gap on him, but then when I got to the stair case I made my mistake. There is a small path on the right side that is possible to ride up and I was doing in the day before, when we were pre riding it. I made it to the top step and then lost my traction, I unclipped but it was to late, I started going backwards and because of the icy ground I didn’t get my footing and slid back down to the bottom, as I watched Romain and another rider which I passed earlier go pass. I got back on the bike and took some risks to catch up, I was gaining, but as the ground thawed the course got slippery and on the sharp turn I mentioned earlier, I slid out and fell. I ran up the hill and jumped back on in pursuit of the two riders. I went hard, but never caught either of them. I came very close though, finished three second behind the one rider and seven behind Romain. I took 18th place which I was very happy with considering the strong field.
After the race I talked with a few other racers and looked at their bikes, while doing so I noticed that they were only running like 25-30 PSI in their tires, as were I had like 50+. I think that was why I felt a little sketchy on the descents. But you live you learn, this was only my third ever cross race so I’m still learning the ropes.
As Romain and I went to return our numbers we came across Erwin Vervecken, the current world cyclocross champion, in the stair case. And it just made me think, that there are thousands of people at the race with his name on; hats, jackets, and everything else, and here he is just a regular guy. People tend to put athletes on such a high pedestal, almost worshiping these figures and yet, they are just as you and I, they are no super heroes they are just regular people that are good at sports.
Anyway I had a great day, and am getting better with every race I do. Next weekend I hope to do another race, some juniors from the US will be here racing with the euro cross camp, so maybe I will try and meet up with them.